A man has been jailed today (Monday July 18) for life for raping and murdering 17-year-old Yiannoulla Yianna in her own home 34 years ago.
James Warnock, aged 56, of Harrington House, Harrington Street, NW1 will serve a recommended 25 years.
The Judge, Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard, commented on the severity of the offence with a significant degree of planning and said Warnock would most likely die in prison. He commented it was impossible to understand how one human being could do this to another.
He also paid tribute to Yiannoulla’s father George and local media for keeping the case alive, plus police and scientists for their work over the years.
Warnock was also sentenced to a total of five years and one month’s imprisonment, to be served concurrently, for six counts of distributing indecent images of children.
On Thursday, 14 July a jury convicted Warnock of raping and strangling Yiannoulla in August 1982.
The verdict could not be made public until Warnock’s further appearance at the Old Bailey on Friday, 15 July, when he pleaded guilty to the indecent image offences.
Detective Inspector Julie Willats said following the conviction: “After 34 years I am so pleased that today we have seen Yiannoulla’s killer brought to justice. I hope this will bring peace for her family who have lived through decades of grief. Today is testament to the unrelenting, dedicated work of scientists and detectives who over many years never gave up hope of catching the killer, and also to the local community that supported them.
“Yiannoulla must have been utterly terrified that day as Warnock, probably armed with a knife, chased her from room to room before finally catching her and carrying out his brutal attack. The only small shred of comfort is that the injuries she suffered meant she may well have been unconscious as Warnock raped and finally killed her.
“Yiannoulla was a vibrant young woman with her whole life ahead of her, a bright future planned and supported by her loving family. To have finally tracked down and convicted her killer after all these years is immensely satisfying.
“I’m sure Warnock thought he’d never be caught but historic murders such as this are never ‘case closed’. As we have seen, advances in DNA technology can play a huge part in solving older cases and, no matter how long it takes, the Met will always strive to bring offenders before the courts.”
Yiannoulla’s family, who knew her as Lucy, said following the verdict: “For over half a lifetime we have had to live with the daily torture of what happened to our daughter and sister Lucy.
“All who knew her, loved and adored her. Even through her death she deeply touched those involved in the investigation of her murder. We thank, from the bottom of our hearts, the police both past and present who have worked constantly and tirelessly to bring him to justice, especially those over the last six months. Our love and thanks to all who gave evidence and helped in this trial and to the family and friends who have supported us throughout.
“We now pray that we can move forward with the rest of our lives having some peace in knowing that her killer has been brought to justice and that a very dangerous man is no longer a threat to anyone else.”
Yiannoulla was alone at her family home in Belsize Road, Hampstead, on the afternoon of Friday, 13 August 1982.
Earlier that day she had been with her parents at the shoe-repair business her father ran at a parade of shops in Fairhazel Gardens, NW6. Yiannoulla and her mother had taken him some lunch.
Her mother asked her to head home around 13:30hrs and begin preparing the family’s evening meal.
Yiannoulla made the short walk home, arriving minutes later, and began her task.
She was listening to her favourite record – ‘Forget Me Nots’ by Patrice Rushen – when there was a knock at the door shortly before 14:00hrs.
She peered out of the window and whatever the man outside said, it convinced her to come down and open the door.
A few minutes later a neighbour heard arguing inside the house, followed by the sound of a scream at around 14:20hrs, before all went quiet.
Yiannoulla’s parents returned home about 14:45hrs. There was no sign of forced entry but pieces of their daughter’s jewellery – an earring, a broken ankle chain and a red hair comb – were scattered on the stairs and landing.
They called out her name. When there was no reply, they began searching the house.
They found Yiannoulla lying dead on their bed. She was naked from the waist down with her skirt pushed up and her chest was exposed where her top and bra had been roughly cut open.
A post-mortem examination revealed she had suffocated, most likely as a result of her neck being held in an arm-lock. She had also been raped, bitten and punched.
Semen was recovered from her body but DNA testing did not exist in 1982 and therefore the sample provided no clues. Finger and palm prints, unknown at the time, were lifted from the rim of the bath.
Yiannoulla’s murder attracted extensive media coverage. A week later, her sister Maria bravely reconstructed Yiannoulla’s last movements for appeals show ‘Police 5’ as she walked home from the shoe-repair shop.
A mobile police station was set up in Belsize Road and more than 1,000 people provided witness statements and fingerprint samples. Despite the extensive police enquiries and community support, no one could identify the man who had knocked at Yiannoulla’s door.
Enquiries revealed that up to three months before the murder, Yiannoulla, Maria and their mother were twice followed by a man close to their home. He was described as aged between 22 and 25, 5ft 6ins with a Mediterranean complexion and black, combed-back hair.
Further appeals on the first and second year anniversaries of the murder were made. An e-fit image of the man Maria and her mother had seen was shown on BBC Crimewatch in 1984. In 2000 the case was included on BBC Crimewatch a second time but again with no result. In 2003 a £10,000 reward was offered with 5,000 appeal leaflets delivered to houses in the area.
Over the years the case was routinely reviewed by Met detectives and scientists to see if advances in forensic technology might provide some answers.
In 1999 a scientist obtained a partial DNA profile for a semen stain on the bedspread where Yiannoulla had been found. Further tests showed it matched the partial DNA sample taken from Yiannoulla’s body.
Four years later a more refined profiling technique obtained a near complete DNA profile from the stain on the bedspread.
The profile was run through the national DNA database but there were no matches and, while the case remained open, it couldn’t be progressed further.
On 30 December 2015 Warnock was arrested for possessing indecent images of children and, as routine, he provided a DNA sample which was loaded onto the database.
That sample was a near complete match for the semen found on the bedspread – the chance of it belonging to someone else was estimated as one in a billion.
Warnock was arrested for murder on 12 January 2016 and later further arrested for rape. At the time of the attack Warnock, then 22, was living around half-a-mile from Yiannoulla’s family home and had been working as a tiler in a nearby street.
Over the course of several police interviews Warnock claimed he’d been having a secret relationship with Yiannoulla after she caught his eye when he supposedly took some boots into her father’s shop.
He told police she had “a lovely smile”. He claimed they bumped into each other by chance a short while later in another shop and got chatting. Warnock said they then met six or seven times and their relationship quickly became intimate.
Officers were quickly able to disprove key claims made by Warnock – not least because it was clear Yiannoulla had been a virgin before being raped and murdered.
He was charged on 14 January 2016.
The prosecution maintained that Warnock had noticed Yiannoulla, was attracted to her, and had probably been the man following her in the street in the months before the murder. But there had been no relationship between them and he had simply knocked on her door having seen her returning home that day.
Although he tried to charm his way in, Yiannoulla refused. He then forced his way inside and chased her up the stairs. He may have grabbed her ankle as she fled, breaking her chain.
It is believed Yiannoulla tried to hide in her brothers’ bedroom which was the only room in the house to have a lock on the door. There was a footprint on the bottom of the door and it had been forced at its hinges as Warnock broke his way in.
More pieces of Yiannoulla’s jewellery were found upstairs – a bangle and a broken ring – as she struggled with Warnock and ran from room to room before he finally cornered her at the top of the house in the bathroom.
When she was found her hair and clothing were soaking wet; the bath had several inches of water in and one line of enquiry was that the terrified victim had climbed in and the defendant turned on the taps. Her knickers were in the water. Those unidentified finger and palm prints found on the rim of the bath were discovered – 33 years later – to match those of Warnock. The bathroom window was open – a neighbour had heard screaming but sadly had no idea Yiannoulla was fighting for her life.
Warnock was arrested for possessing indecent images of children in December 2015 after officers acted on information received about various computer users sharing material. In police interview he admitted for two years he had been involved in chatting online about child sex abuse and sharing indecent images of children, ranging in age from toddlers to 15-year-olds.
He was subsequently charged with six counts of distributing indecent photographs/pseudo-photographs of a child.